I’ve still not made my peace with Elizabeth Scott. While many compare her writing to that of Sarah Dessen, I’ve yet to see it, and I’m not even particularly enamored of Ms. Dessen’s work. Even so, Scott’s young female protagonists, while meant to embody the indecision, insecurity, and angst of the volatile teen years, fail resonate the way that Dessen’s characters do, for all that I often find Dessen to overwork her characters’ quirks to the point of insincerity. Still, at least Dessen always manages to draw me into the internal struggles of her characters, sometimes to great effect (Just Listen, The Truth About Forever) and other times less thoroughly (This Lullaby, Lock and Key). Scott, on the other hand, reminds me more of young adult writers such as Deb Caletti and Susane Colsanti, whose work continually seems defeated by its own inability to flesh out its characters into believable figures.
Most of The Unwritten Rule comprises of protagonist Sarah’s obsessive deliberation over
the melancholia of her status as invisible best friend to the golden girl who has it all, including the guy Sarah has held a flame for for years. I felt as if I were reading the diary of a very immature, very self-conscious middle school student, which was only exacerbated by the complete lack of plot. This is not an exaggeration; Sarah’s hang-ups are the entire focus of the book, as she agonizes over what she perceives as her own traitorous actions toward a best friend who constantly and subtlely puts Sarah down. In all honesty, if Scott was aiming to convey something approximating an actual year in the mind of a young teenage girl, she succeeded. Unfortunately, my own diaries from that era contain more intrigue and depth than Scott’s story. Yet for all my criticisms, I appreciated the fact that Scott did in fact capture the frustration of that period in life and the fact that, often in romance, there isn’t a purely innocent party, but nor is there a clear villain. Sarah’s best friend, Brianna, comes the closest to conveying this message as she is the most three-dimensional character.
While I wouldn’t seek out The Unwritten Rule, and can offer at least a dozen titles to satisfy those hungry for a pure young adult romance, it’s not completely irredeemable. I finished it fairly quickly, unlike Scott’s Bloom, which I didn’t finish at all, or Perfect You, which I had to resist the urge to fling at the wall. I’ve not read any of Scott’s non-romantic work, so perhaps she excels in that genre, but as far as young adult romance goes, I’m not a fan.